Nearly 150 black former staffers from the Obama administration signed a letter condemning President Donald Trump’s recent racist “go back” remark aimed at four congresswomen of color ― and got a word of support from the former president himself.
The op-ed, published in The Washington Post on Friday, was co-signed by 149 people who served in a wide range of White House and agency roles in President Barack Obama’s administration and authored by Clarence J. Fluker, Charmion N. Kinder, Jesse Moore and Khalilah M. Harris.
The letter addresses Trump’s rant on Twitter earlier this month in which he directed Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
Although the president didn’t name his targets in the tweet, he was widely condemned for reinforcing a common racist and xenophobic trope used against people of color.
Days later, his supporters chanted “Send her back!” at a North Carolina rally after Trump ramped up attacks on Omar, a black Muslim American congresswoman originally from Somalia who came to the U.S. as a child.
“We’ve heard this before. Go back where you came from. Go back to Africa. And now, ‘send her back,’” the op-ed read, continuing:
“Black and brown people in America don’t hear these chants in a vacuum; for many of us, we’ve felt their full force being shouted in our faces, whispered behind our backs, scrawled across lockers, or hurled at us online. They are part of a pattern in our country designed to denigrate us as well as keep us separate and afraid.”
Obama tweeted out the op-ed on Saturday afternoon in a show of support for his staffers, saying that he’s “proud of how they’re continuing to fight for an America that’s better.”
The letter continued, “As 149 African Americans who served in the last administration, we witnessed firsthand the relentless attacks on the legitimacy of President Barack Obama and his family from our front-row seats to America’s first black presidency.”
Among the letter’s co-signers is Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s former senior adviser. Jarrett was notably the subject of a racist and Islamophobic tweet by disgraced comedian Roseanne Barr comparing Jarrett to the “Planet of the Apes.”
During a town hall discussion in May of last year, Jarrett addressed the comments by Barr, a vocal Trump supporter, by noting “tone does start at the top.”
“We like to look up to our president, and feel as though he reflects the values of our country,” she said at the time. “But I also think every individual citizen has a responsibility too.”
The co-signers of the letter noted their support for the four freshman congresswoman often referred to as “the Squad.”
“We stand with congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, as well as all those currently under attack by President Trump, along with his supporters and his enablers, who feel deputized to decide who belongs here — and who does not,” the letter read.
It continued, “There is truly nothing more un-American than calling on fellow citizens to leave our country — by citing their immigrant roots, or ancestry, or their unwillingness to sit in quiet obedience while democracy is being undermined.”
Read the entire op-ed in The Washington Post here.